Public Health Study Tour (PHST)

Pumie Siriwardana is a New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient from The University of Western Australia. Pumie undertook the July 2018 Public Health Study Tour, hosted by Universitas Indonesia.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake ACICIS’ Public Health Study Tour?

It was a combination of the appeal of finishing 6 credit points outside of the normal semester period, travelling to a country I had not yet visited, and getting the chance to learn about Indonesian public health in the most immersive way possible. The idea of studying public health abroad could also give me the chance to expand my understanding of healthcare beyond my Pharmacology major, and expose me to some of the health issues faced by a society.

Q: What do you find to be the most challenging about the PHST?

As you would expect with a 2-week unit, a lot had to be completed continuously throughout, and the consistent stream of readings, seminars and field trips began to take its toll when I became slack with my sleep schedule. However, once I made sure to keep myself rested and avoid any questionable food, I was able to thoroughly enjoy all the valuable experiences that occupied me for the 2 weeks.

Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? If so, how did this contribute to your experience in Indonesia?

I did receive a New Colombo Plan Grant, and because of this I was able to partake in this entire unit! The grant covered most of the upfront costs and gave me the financial backing to proceed with my wishes to study abroad in a country I only knew superficially, and had never experienced first-hand.

Q: What public health issues in Indonesia have you become more interested in/aware of as a result of this tour?

The tour heightened my awareness of the scale of issues in Indonesia, such as smoking, however it also opened my eyes to its complexity and steadfastness within this diverse archipelago. I’ve realised that the prevalence of this issue can be due to societal, political and commercial influences and that solutions are hardly fixed on a government policy, but require ongoing work involving community attitudes, education and leadership.

Q: What was your favourite field trip?

Visits to community clinics such as the Puskesmas and Posyandu were my favourite since they were such a great way to directly interact with the Indonesian villagers, their culture and society. I could put theory to practice and get a grasp of the public health landscape, and some of the gaps between policy and actual implementation. Getting a tour of a village elder’s home was an unanticipated bonus!

Q: How do you think the Public Health Study Tour will influence your future career or studies?

I have a thorough interest in medicine and medical practice, however this tour has now given me an added interest in public health and government policy. Coming into contact with government policy makers and researchers has opened up the scope of my career possibilities, with a realisation that making an impact in health within a society goes beyond the clinic.

Q: What did you most enjoy about the seminar series?

Getting exposure to such a variety of ideas and points of view was a highly enjoyable aspect of the seminar series. Listening to diverse analyses of public health issues by passionate non-government organisation representatives, government policy makers and researchers brought me interesting new perspectives.

Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?

It’s hard to name a favourite between the spicy cuisine, the warm greetings and the fact that everyone seemed to smile all the time. However, what interested me the most was how the Indonesian lifestyle is so closely structured around their culture and religion – so refreshingly different and quite humbling!